Lapid: Fire Chief Rabbis over objection to religious women's service in the army

Chief Rabbis reiterate opposition to enlistment of religious women to the IDF; Lapid: This is insolence, a national scandal.

By JPOST.COM STAFF
January 10, 2014 17:19
3 minute read.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid at Knesset swear in, February 5, 2013

Lapid at Knesset 370. (photo credit: Uriel Sinai/Reuters)

 
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Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) called for the dismissal of Rabbi David Lau and Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef from the Chief Rabbinate on Friday, after they reiterated their opposition to religious women serving in the army.

“David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef are no longer worthy to serve in Israel as chief rabbis,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

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“This is insolence and a national scandal, and we will work for their dismissal in the Knesset and in the government, and if necessary in the legal department as well,” the finance minister said.

During a meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate last month, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who is strongly opposed to the enlistment of religious women, raised the issue and asked that the panel restate its position that women’s enlistment contravenes Jewish law.

This has been a longstanding position of the Chief Rabbinate, but the reiteration came due to the growing numbers of enlistment among religious girls.

Eliyahu, who belongs to the conservative wing of the national- religious movement, has in light of that trend embarked on a strong campaign against religious girls serving in the army.

According to what The Jerusalem Post learned, the Chief Rabbinate is particularly opposed to rabbis who promote enlistment for religious women, and the rabbinate’s preferred solution is for them to serve in the national service program, which many women from the national-religious sector do.

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In his Facebook post, Lapid does not make the distinction between religious and secular women, nor does he address the issue of the proposed alternative – national service.

“These are state employees who collect a nice paycheck from the State of Israel, sit in their comfortable offices and announce that they do not allow girls to serve in the mud and cold as fighters in the Caracal Battalion, in the IAF Flight Academy, in the Border Police and in the Naval Academy,” Lapid wrote.

“Does the [female] commander of the Eitam combat battalion need to resign? What about [OC IDF Manpower Directorate] Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai? The [female] soldier teachers? What about the [female] Military Intelligence soldiers I met two weeks ago in the Northern Command, hunched over screens to stop terrorists from infiltrating through the border fence? Are they not allowed to serve either?” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, however, did make the distinction between religious and secular women.

“Instead of advancing with the times and joining Israeli society, the Chief Rabbinate chose to withdraw and cut itself off from Israeli society and reality,” Livni wrote on her Facebook page.

She asserted that the chief rabbis should encourage religious women to join the army and help them in maintaining their faith and way of life within the army ranks.

“This is a ruling that hurts girls who are Israeli citizens [and prevents them from] acting according to their own will, and contribute to the state,” Livni wrote.

Livni decried the Chief Rabbinate’s portrayal of Judaism as “a different Judaism to what I believe Judaism needs to be: plural, tolerant, one that draws [people] closer and respects women.”

The justice minister vowed to work alongside fellow Hatnua MK Elazar Stern to “restore the good and beautiful Judaism to the Israeli society.”

Hidush, the nonprofit organization that promotes freedom of religion and equality, called to abolish the Chief Rabbinate.

“Finance Minister Yair Lapid is mistaken when he calls to dismiss the chief rabbis,” Hidush head Rabbi Uri Regev said. “The problem is not the rabbis, but the existence of their job. Therefore it is not the dismissal of the chief rabbis that is necessary, rather we need to abolish the Chief Rabbinate.”

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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